Depicting Steve Jobs in the afterlife

Within about five minutes of reading about Steve Jobs’ death, a friend texted me, “Get ready for all the overreaction about Steve Jobs, who was obviously dying for years.” It’s also interesting (but not surprising) to see how quickly Gawker would publish a post “What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs.” How soon is too soon to start critiquing someone’s life after their death?

Or, from a religion angle, how soon is it to start talking about the person’s beliefs about the afterlife? Mollie discussed some of the Buddhist beliefs of the Apple founder before his death, so you might think the media would depict him within that context.

Interestingly, The New Yorker posted its latest cover image that depicts the founder of Apple as meeting Saint Peter at the pearly gates. In the illustration, Saint Peter is using an iPad, perhaps using the device to decide if Jobs will go to heaven.

Is it satire or disrespect? Should the magazine depict Jobs with a religious figure within his own tradition? Xavier Lanier suggests that perhaps The New Yorker‘s ignorant staff could have been more sensitive to Jobs’ religion.

Each religion has its own theory of what happens to us in the afterlife. Whatever your beliefs (or lack of religios beliefs) are, it’s an ultimate sign of disrespect to be memorialized in a manner which doesn’t reflect how you lived. You wouldn’t place a a cross over a Jew’s grave or hold a Catholic mass for an atheist, would you? The New Yorker most certainly wouldn’t dare depicting a deceased celebrity in any stage of Islmaic rites unless its editors were 1000% sure he was a Muslim.

It appears that Barry Blitt’s cover was an attempt at humor in a way that perhaps the majority of Americans could relate to (since about 75 percent of Americans fall within a Christian tradition).

What frustrates me is when magazines use religion to hook the reader into reading a story but it doesn’t appear to actually go into religion at all. A quick scan of the coverage suggests it doesn’t really touch on his Buddhist faith but simply uses the faith-y hook in the “The Book of Life” cover to get people into the content.

We saw a similar issue with the crazy-eyed Michele Bachmann cover of Newsweek where religion was included in the deck but the article didn’t really go into her faith. Editors clearly understand that people resonate with religion and feel passionately about it, but they don’t seem to bother to pursue it through editorial content.

The New Yorker certainly hasn’t been the only one who depicted Jobs religiously. BuzzFeed notes that that other illustrations depicted Jobs in a heaven-like situation. What do you think? Is it offensive, unwise or something else to depict someone after their death outside of their own religious tradition?

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  • Mattk

    Wow! Is it just me or is the iPad depicted in reverse perspective, as the Gospel book is depicted in Orthodox Christian iconography?

  • Vivek

    Well written point. Strangely, in most of the eulogies, commentators even mentioned about Steve Job’s eastern beliefs or discussed how it played into his world view and creativity.

    America preaches religious tolerance but does not practice it. It does not have the decency to honor the religion of one of its greatest sons.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Update! Here’s a piece in the Wall Street Journal about Steve Jobs, secularism, Buddhism, and more by Andy Crouch:

  • turzovka

    All I can say is that I will forever remain confounded and bewildered at the countless number of intelligent people I know or am aware of as celebrity status who dismiss the importance of religion and the afterlife. They act as though what they do now matters not to our Creator. I think it is done so because they are afraid to confront the inevitable and they are in the “misery loves company” crowd who are hoping God cannot punish us all?

    I am equally perplexed by all those who say there is no evidence for the Judeo-Christian God and dismiss it cavalierly. The evidence is everywhere people! Jesus dis say (paraphrase) “most people do not come to serve their Lord due to a sluggish heart.” Sounds rather benign, but such a condition is deadly I fear.

  • Dave

    I think it’s a tribute to his importance that cartoonists bother depicting his afterlife. Most of us will be well off if the obit gets our birthday right.

    My favorite to date is the Toles cartoon: Standing before a St Peter with a big quill pen and an old-fashioned book, Jobs is saying, “I can help you with that…”

  • LDS Dave

    I wouldn’t fault journalists and illustrators on this one — I think depicting Jobs-inspired technology and devices being used in heaven is just a way to celebrate his incredible accomplishments. If he were shown whispering “think different” in the ear of a meditating Buddha, I think it is the same message, but probably with less impact for the average reader.

  • Ellyn

    Have St. Peter and the pearly gates become a trope detached from their original religious significance? You know, like Santa?

  • Dan

    I find it refreshing to see a depiction of Steve Jobs subordinated to any power. I don’t know if Steve Jobs had much religion, but I do know he is a religion. He was, as my wife dubbed him, the god of gadgets.

  • Frank

    Luv the cover I pray to Steve now whenever my pad works less tthan perfect..I think it helps….also I would have a catholic mass for an anyone…even you

  • Julia

    St Peter before the Pearly Gates is not dogmatic religion or from Scripture – it is much like Santa Claus as Ellyn says.
    Nobody thinks St Peter really decides who gets into heaven. In fact, “St Peter” in the illustration has wings that belong to angels not saints. And he’s bald which is more like St Paul is usually depicted.

    It’s clever and indicates Jobs’ huge influence.

    My hometown editorial cartoonist did essentially the same scene in honor of Jobs, but is more obviously meant to produce a grin instead of a theological statement.

  • http://SpiritDaily Riki

    I think Steve would at least be smiling at it. Whatever religion anyone was into during his/her life, the fact is we all will encounter the One and Only Creator God Who is the Only Just One to judge us. I think it’s pretty funny that the gate keeper (so to say) of Heaven has an I-Pad, Saint Peter shows him how thankful he is not to have to schlepp around with heavy notebooks and is saying JOB(s) well done Steve. Riki o:)

  • http://SpiritDaily Riki

    I think Steve would at least be smiling at it. Whatever religion anyone was into during his/her life, the fact is we all will encounter the One and Only Creator God Who is the Only Just One to judge us. I think it’s pretty funny that the gate keeper (so to say) of Heaven has an I-Pad, Saint Peter shows him how thankful he is not to have to schlepp around with heavy notebooks and is saying JOB(s) well done Steve. Riki o:)
    Curious what Eve will say when meeting Steve up there, after all she was the first to try out an APPLE.
    Sent from my APPLE.
    Riki 0:)

  • jbw

    You how you watch a movie and keep hoping it gets better? Well, same with this ‘article’. This has got to be one of the most most POINTLESS articles I have read in a while. And the the last question to readers at the end??? Who cares??! It’s called artistic license.

  • Michael F.

    You all are kidding right?

    In Iran a man is going to be hanged because he converted to Christianity? Not tolerant in America – what?
    You can worship as you wish in America and EVEN atheists, being a slim minority, win court cases for simple postings of the ten commandments.

    The media types need to stop critiquing useless details – like a drawing on a cover of a magazine. And we as Americans need to stop being pulled into the media machine making us think we care about, need to comment on, and purchase useless information. Don’t you see, this is done to agigate you so they sell MORE stuff.

    In God we Trust.

  • Jerry

    I’m voting with those who think that was a perfectly appropriate cartoon because it was done to honor the ubiquity of the technology Jobs had such a big role in shepherding to market.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Hey guys, thanks for talking further about these issues. We’re here to discuss religion coverage in media, not how you feel about Steve Jobs. Thanks for participating.

  • Lucy S.

    Sarah, the way I read it we ARE discussing the coverage. Even the comments including the name of Steve Jobs are mostly discussing the cartoon about him.

  • Mike X

    Based on the cover artwork, I’m sure St. Peter is thrilled that while in heaven he’s still bald and has to wear glasses.!

  • charlene

    The cartoon is sweet. God is real and he is merciful. He created every human being and keeps them in existence. Steve Jobs overcame alot in life and was gifted by God with genius and he used it intensely for humanity. He was not perfect but no one is except Jesus. And God called him home because his work here is done and his soul lives on into eternal time. We are all going to die and the best we can do is use our talents however big or small for the world around us. May God bless Steve Jobs and comfort those he left behind who truly loved him. It can not be easy to leave your children at such a young age.

  • Nita

    Probably the cartoonist didn’t even know about Steve’s religious affiliation and thought it would be fun to depict St. Peter using Steve’s great invention. Sometimes we need to lighten up.

  • Christopher

    Interesting article.

    The reality is that we have become sentimental fools.

    Steve Jobs will experience the same Judgement as everyone else. To depict him standing next to God whilst reviewing his life is a mockery.

  • Janet

    What a ridiculous ‘debate’. Borrowing from a few of the previous commenters, this is a cartoon, for goodness sake and we should all lighten up.

    And a BTW for the author of the piece, there have been countless Catholic masses said for not only athiests but Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and any other denomination or non-denomination that you could think of.

  • john

    The media perhaps should make sure it has people on staff that actually know and practice some sort of faith…their ignorance in such matters is obvious and appalling.Of course even though they realize the majority of Americans believe in or follow some particular is not beyond them to use religion as a means to offend.Perhaps one day people who do believe in God..particularly Christians(the easy target of the media)will wise up and stop buying or listening to their hateful rants.As for Steve matter what faith he practiced or did’nt practice..the fact remains that he has now gone and stood before God and has been judged…pray for his soul..thats the best thing you can do for him.Criticizing him is sinful and wrong..he is now a soul in need of prayers and thats it.Eventually we will all meet the same fate and the same God.

  • Agnikan

    First of all, Buddhism teaches the existence of various levels of heavens. So Job being in a heaven is consistent with Buddhism.

    Secondly, St. Peter was a pretty decent guy, which would mean that he probably is enjoying a Buddhist heaven right now.

  • Chip

    Cartoonist Matt Bors gets Steve Job’s religion

  • Chip

    A better link